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Green Tribunal "sets aside" eco-clearance to Adani Hazira port expansion in Gujarat, imposes Rs 25 crore fine

By Our Representative
In a ruling of far-reaching significance, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Pune, has set aside environmental clearance (EC) to the Adani Hazira Port Pvt Ltd (AHPPL) dated May 3, 2013, granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for the further development of port activities at Hazira, South Gujarat.
The order, delivered by Justice VR Kingaonkar and Dr Ajay A Deshpande, imposes a penalty of Rs 25 crore by continuing with the expansion “undaunted” in the absence of EC and Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) clearance.
The order says that the penalty should to be deposited to the district collector, Surat for the “restoration” of access of the boats to traditional fishermen in the seawater through mouth of the creek, affected by “closing/narrowing down mouth of the creek.”
The order also requires the Adani Group to pay Rs 2 lakh each to four appellants – the Hazira Macchimar Samiti, represented through its President Dhansukhbhai Banabhai Rathod, Maheshbhai Rathod, Hasmuckhbhai Rathod, and Vimalbhai Khalasi – as litigation cost.
Cases of alleged environmental non-compliance by the Adani Group in the past have been used by the powerful international NGO Greenpeace in its challenge to the Adanis’ ambitious plan to develop the world’s biggest coalmining project in Australia’s Queensland province, predicting irreversible ecological damage.
Examining the minutes of 117th meeting of the Environmental Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the MoEF, in which CRZ clearance for the AHPPL was considered, the NGT said, they do not reflect the detailed plan with budgetary provisions for corporate social responsibility (CSR) which was committed.
Pointing out that “there appears no such verification and compliances”, the judgment observes, “Least to say, it is indicative of casual approach of EAC to recommend the proposal which was approved further by Environmental Impact Assessment Authority, i.e. MoEF, while granting the impugned EC.”
The judgment further says, care was “not taken by the MoEF” about the need to take “consent to establish” hazardous material storage facility from the Gujarat Pollution Control Board “to avoid any future mishap from hazardous products/material, likely to be brought to the port and stored.”
Perusing the maps, the order states, go to show that most of mangroves area has been “destructed”, noting, “The creek situated in north-east corner is narrowed down due to reclamation of land, as a result of port/cargo activities and port expansion activities.”
The order, which is also significant as it "indicts" a business house known to be closest to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, says, “Instead of expanding port work in phase-out manner, expansion was already practically done almost without obtaining EC and CRZ clearance.”
The order states, this came to light after the NGT “directed the MoEF to examine these maps with earlier authentic maps and get superimposed status map, in order to demonstrate whether a bottleneck is artificially created due to reclamation of land and the Port activities of AHPPL, which could cause denial of access to the traditional boats of fishermen folks of Hajira.”
“Obviously, AHPPL laboured under impression that it can manage with the authorities to alleviate the problems”, the order underlines, adding, “One of the examples, which we can see from the record is that the AHPPL sought modification of terms of the earlier EC dated May 3, 2003, without any reasonable explanation and without any prior study of environmental impact.”
The result, it says, was that “this area, which once had abundance of mangroves stretches as per MoEF’s own record, presently does not have any mangrove vegetation, clearly indicating the environmental degradation and damage.”
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Click HERE to download complete NGT order

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